Photo, Filippo Monteforte/ Agence France-Presse
A woman shouted slogans during protest Tuesday in Cairo, some joined by men, included, "Freedom, freedom".
Yesterday saw a phalanx of thousands of Egyptian women marching and demonstrating in downtown Cairo over the brutal treatment of women by the Egyptian military.
The catalyst for revolt was the beating, dragging and partial stripping of an Egyptian woman on Saturday by the military. Pictures of the assault showing her being dragged, her abaya torn revealing a blue bra, went viral over the internet and set the stage for yesterday's protest.
The women in yesterday's march were mostly dressed in traditional Muslim black head scarves, some with face covering veils and others in "westernized" clothing, had become incensed by the military's brutality of women in general, but the "blue bra" lady's picture and her brutal treatment brought the situation to an intolerable level bringing women of all stripes out onto the streets, many for the first time ever.
Even though the event was not unprecedented (women in Cairo marched against British colonial rule in 1919) yesterday's rebellion by Egyptian women was particularly momentous for women there generally, who were a part of the throngs in Tahrir Square last February that contributed to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, but were not seen in the forefront of the protests until yesterday.
To put yesterday's march in further context, women not only in Egypt but in all Muslim societies are hardly considered equal to men. Islam is male dominated and despite sectarian differences i.e. Sunni, Shiite and other sects, all Muslim societies (with the possible exception of Turkey) are male dominated.
So was this outpouring of protesting women in an Arab, Muslim country significant and could it possibly inspire similar protests in other Arab and Muslim dominated countries in solidarity with the women in Cairo?
Many other questions abound; will men in Egypt (and other Arab and Muslim countries) react positively or negatively to yesterday's women dominated march? Will they support it or be critical of it? Will yesterday be transformational for Egyptian women? How about Arab and Muslim women in other countries such as ultra conservative Saudi Arabia? Getting back to Egypt, will women's presence in such large numbers increase the pressure on the Egyptian military and lessen it's domination over civilian rule even with parliamentary elections, the writing of a new constitution and finally the election of a new president? Will they ultimately agree to cede power and be subject to civilian rule?
As with protests everywhere in the world this year one thing seems clear; the old existing order in every country that has seen protests is being openly challenged by the people.
Yesterday in Cairo, Egypt was another manifestation of that challenge.